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Through IOs' Eyes

  • Is global governance characterized by overlap and fragmentation, or by coordination and harmonization? There are two rather different narratives about the worlds in which international organizations (IOs) live. One way or another, IOs are part of a broader environment and engage in relations with other actors in it. Rather than being detached from their environment, IOs are shaped by and respond to developments taking place within it (e.g., overlap). Thus, the general research interest of this dissertation lies in organizational responses to such environmental developments. Therein, the emphasis is placed on IO positionality, meaning the position of an IO within a “web” of interorganizational relations, or, more precisely, an IO’s position within an organizational field as a specification of the IO environment. Against this background, the dissertation poses the following research question: How does an IO’s position within an organizational field shape its responses to developments of the field? In that, three subquestions areIs global governance characterized by overlap and fragmentation, or by coordination and harmonization? There are two rather different narratives about the worlds in which international organizations (IOs) live. One way or another, IOs are part of a broader environment and engage in relations with other actors in it. Rather than being detached from their environment, IOs are shaped by and respond to developments taking place within it (e.g., overlap). Thus, the general research interest of this dissertation lies in organizational responses to such environmental developments. Therein, the emphasis is placed on IO positionality, meaning the position of an IO within a “web” of interorganizational relations, or, more precisely, an IO’s position within an organizational field as a specification of the IO environment. Against this background, the dissertation poses the following research question: How does an IO’s position within an organizational field shape its responses to developments of the field? In that, three subquestions are advanced: Which position does an IO occupy within the organizational field? How does an IO perceive the organizational field? How does an IO respond to developments and features of the field? Theoretically, the dissertation combines an open system perspective on IOs with two variants of field theory inspired by Bourdieu and by DiMaggio and Powell. Building on the central concept of the organizational field, the dissertation understands IOs as actors with agency. Empirically, the dissertation consists of a qualitative, comparative study and analyzes two IOs located within the organizational field of global food security governance. I select IOs that occupy different positions within the field of food security governance, namely an IO at the core of the field (the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO) and an IO at the periphery of the field (the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, or UNIDO). I compare and analyze their respective perceptions of the field of food security governance, including their own role and their understandings of food security, and their responses over time. To investigate these IOs’ perceptions and responses over time, the method of choice consists of a qualitative content analysis of a wide range of organizational documents (e.g., governing bodies’ reports). The main argument this dissertation advances is as follows: The position that an IO occupies within an organizational field influences how the organization perceives its environment—in particular, features of and developments within this environment. Against this background, the main findings of this dissertation are as follows: Overall, FAO and UNIDO both perceive proliferation, overlap, and duplication as relevant developments of the organizational field of global food security governance over time. While both IOs see developments in the field of food security governance (e.g., overlap and duplication) as problematic given their detrimental effects for food security governance, FAO and UNIDO differ in decisive regards. Whereas FAO holds a narrative that other actors were responsible for this state of affairs, and thus responsible for reducing or even eliminating overlap and duplication, UNIDO perceives these developments differently. UNIDO acknowledges its own role in the development of overlap and duplication, and therefore also sees a role for itself in addressing these developments. The two IOs thus differ in what they understand to be the causes and historical priors of field-specific developments. Furthermore, while both FAO and UNIDO attempt to demonstrate that they are constructive players within the UN development system, the two IOs differ in their responses: While FAO engages in balancing by voicing its commitment to UN processes and to coordination, yet early on making different reservations, UNIDO, in contrast, engages in UN processes without similar reservations. Accordingly, the two IOs also differ on the responses they employ to field-level harmonization demands. The dissertation makes several contributions. Theoretically, I contribute an innovative argument on the influence of perceptions for organizational responses to developments in the IOs’ environment. This argument may help us to better understand how IOs as actors embedded within an organizational field deal with changes evolving within these fields. Empirically, I scrutinize developments in food security governance, such as proliferation and overlap, through the eyes of IOs in the field. While proliferation, overlap, and duplication are often referred to in academic debates on food security governance, we do not yet actually understand these phenomena very well. To this, I contribute a study that analyzes IO perceptions of these developments in the field, thus resulting in a more in-depth and nuanced picture of how IOs perceive these developments as a central type of actor in food security governance. Next, to this emphasis on the IO perspective, I also inductively develop a spectrum of IO responses to field developments, ranging from expanding scope to defending turf. Finally, I also make a methodological-conceptual contribution: While concepts such as “position” are well-known, they are sometimes drawn on without developing a clear foundation of how to assess different positions. I thus add an approach for bringing this concept of position to life by developing a range of criteria that can be used to approximate an IO’s position within an organizational field, depending on different types of capital.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Author:Angela Heucher
Subtitle (English):International Organizations in the Field of Food Security Governance and Their Positions, Perceptions and Responses
Referee:Andrea LieseORCiD, Anna HolzscheiterORCiD
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language:English
Year of Completion:2018
Publishing Institution:Universität Potsdam
Granting Institution:Universität Potsdam
Date of final exam:2019/01/21
Release Date:2019/02/18
Tag:international organizations; food security governance; inter-organizational relations; overlap; perception
Pagenumber:323
Organizational units:Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Sozialwissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:3 Sozialwissenschaften / 33 Wirtschaft / 330 Wirtschaft